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by Vault Law Editors | March 10, 2009


Help Me Hillary: Alternative Career Advice from Hillary Mantis, author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers and Jobs for Lawyers.

Dear Hillary:

I am currently a first year law student. When I began law school, I knew it was because I wanted my law degree and I did not necessarily want to be a lawyer. However, I am now questioning my decision. The thought of being a professor or working for victims' rights and/or criminology is more appealing to me than practicing law. It is not because the first year of law school is difficult that I am feeling this way. It is just now that I am realizing that there might be a more direct and effective way to reach a career that I will find fulfilling. My parents and family are encouraging me to get my law degree because of the financial aspects, but I am unsure of what is right. Are there many options for people who have law degrees and don't want to practice law? Perhaps it would be more beneficial for me to earn a different degree. Any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciate.

Thank you,

Dear K:

It's tough to be a first-year law student, but I think you should consider sticking it out. While you are under the pressures of law school and first-year exams, it can be hard to distinguish whether you are not interested in practicing law or whether you are just extremely stressed out (which would be perfectly understandable!). If you can make it through first year, I think you will find that things get easier. I also think you will be in a better position to determine what you really want.

The careers that you mention -- being a professor, working for victims' rights, and /or criminology -- are all careers in which a law degree would be beneficial. Law professors and staff attorneys at nonprofit organizations are some of the most satisfied attorneys I have met. There are a lot of law careers out there that you may not be aware of yet. It is certainly not too early for you to meet with a career counselor at your law school and with a public interest career counselor if your law school has one. I know that you don't have a lot of free time, but talking with a career counselor may allow you to see some new options. I do think that having a law degree can open a lot of doors and enhance your general marketability. You will, however, have to do some research to figure out exactly where you fit in.

If you do stick it out, you should try out potential careers while you are still in law school. For example, you could work for a law firm one summer, a nonprofit organization one summer, and take a clinical course if you can fit it in. In the meantime, good luck with first year. Things will get better!

If you have your own question for Hillary send her an email to Help me Hillary.

Hillary Mantis, Esq.,is a career counselor and author of career books. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers and Jobs for Lawyers: Effective Techniques for Getting Hired in Today's Legal Marketplace.

Ms. Mantis consults with individuals and corporations on issues including: career transition, career advancement and direction, interviewing skills, leadership development, women in the workplace, and professional growth. She has been affiliated with Fordham University School of Law Career Planning Center for the past six years, and has been a career counselor for over ten years. She is a graduate of Brown University and Boston College Law School. For more information about private career counseling, email, or go to


Filed Under: Law